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Correspondent

HARVARD — There is much more to discuss before the Planning Board will vote on the special permit for the Ayer Road Village senior housing and commercial complex.

During the Dec. 1 continued public hearing on the project, the Planning Board heard from Louis Russo of Wheeler Realty, Bruce Ringwall of GPR Engineering, Brent Maugel of Maugel Architects Inc. and Brian J. Beisel of Conley Associates, about the development. It involves both commercial and senior housing buildings on parcels 196, 198 and 200 on Ayer Road.

Maugel and Beisel attended to address some of the board’s concerns from a prior meeting, including structure massing and increasing traffic.

As the architect designing the structures, Maugel outlined the design aspects of the senior housing that were intended to mitigate the size of the three-story building. The proposed senior housing is 100 percent affordable units and is technically two buildings on two parcels that share a single fire wall.

Maugel brought a new illustration of the proposed structure to show how it would appear from Ayer Road, with an “L-shaped” design to reduce the visible profile of the building. Other elements highlighted by Maugel include masking the third floor with a slanted roofing to make it appear like two floors with an attic, plus faux chimneys, brickwork and chiseling away the corners of the building.

On the new illustration, Maugel pointed to how the different vantage point from the street gave a better idea of the building than the previous picture that showed the design from a close angle. He told the board that further changes to the design, to reduce massing, included a glass entryway and further changes to the exterior ground level to further break up the visual impact of the structure.

Beisel was on hand to present the applicant’s traffic study, and explained that the numbers used were from traffic counts taken during the previous spring. He said projected traffic for the next six years used a 2 percent growth rate per year.

The traffic study was broken down into senior housing, retail and office use, as currently planned for the site. Beisel said there would not be enough traffic to require a roundabout at the intersection.

Board member Peter Brooks asked if the senior housing was going to be for ages 55 and up, with the concern that some of the residents may still be working at that age, adding to the number of traffic trips per day.

“The management firm we will be using to run this place has indicated that the average age of tenants is about 75 years old,” Russo commented. Beisel pointed out that because the units are all affordable, the trip rate could be even lower than the calculations.

Board Chairman Joseph Sudol pointed out that significant development was taking place on nearby Devens, increasing the amount of traffic, and he asked Beisel if he was comfortable with the 2 percent annual growth rate used in the traffic calculation. Beisel responded that a previous study found that the Devens would not have a significant impact on traffic and could be included as part of the 2 percent growth rate. Sudol commented that the board would need to have a consultant look through the new traffic study.

Russo commented that one of the other options Harvard could look into to mitigate traffic was lowering the speed limit on that section of road from 40 mph to 35 mph. “Lowering the speed limit is something we would like to see happen,” he said.

Associate board member Lisa Fox asked if the town could work with the state to control the amount of truck traffic by imposing weight limits. Beisel responded that posting weight limits is more difficult because it impacts businesses in nearby towns compared to the speed limit change.

Resident and Selectman Timothy Clark voiced support for the proposed development, adding that as a member of the committee that created the Ayer Road Village bylaw, his comments were only meant as advice.

Clark told the board that this corridor, referring to the section of Ayer Road planned for development and its surroundings, was something that Harvard has to deal with. Clark said the town needs to work with developers to improve the corridor, but added that the board’s jurisdiction ends at the property line.

The board voted to continue the public hearing until Dec. 15 at 9:15 p.m.